Self-Compassion Versus Self-Esteem

Self-compassion and self-esteem sound the same. But, in truth, they are vastly different.  Self-compassion feeds the soul.  Self-esteem feeds the ego. See why this makes all the difference.

First, let’s take a look at self-esteem, its tactics, focus, and effects.   Then, we’ll do the same with self-compassion.  This will enable us to highlight the differences.


The goal of self-esteem is to bolster self-confidence and self-value. On the surface, this appears to be a noble and worthwhile goal.  However, the strategies behind self-esteem are essentially self-promotion and self-identification to the exclusion of everything else.  Thus, bolstering the Ego and magnifying unhealthy tendencies of each personality type.  This is a very slippery slope.  It encourages people to degenerate downward into unhealthy levels of their personality.  It promotes the idea that self-worth is ONLY available if you are extraordinary by someone else’s standard.

So, this reinforces the unhealthy idea that we are only valuable to others and consequently ourselves if we are exceptional, different and better than others.  We must strive to be “special” instead of authentic.  This “ideal” is reflected in a number of cultural obsessions.  We the emphasis on superheroes and anthropomorphic beings like vampires, werewolves etc.

Self-Esteem Tactics

The emphasis on self-esteem begins early in life.  The school and religious systems of Western culture reinforce the importance of self-esteem.  That’s Because students who are confident are easier to teach.  This is especially true when it comes to the tedious task of memorization.  And, memorization of facts appropriate to the cultural narrative is the primary goal of the education system in the West.  Unfortunately, the emphasis on self-esteem produces people who are selfish and self-centered.

The tactics of self-esteem are to produce students who believe they are superior to everyone else.  This ignores the statistical fact the most people are average.  However, positive confident people are easier to handle in a classroom setting. Even though people learn at different rates, adjusting the teaching curriculum would be impossible in a mass classroom setting.  It’s far easier to base the learning process on benchmarks that can easily be measured.  That is, basing a curriculum on the student’s ability to memorize prioritized data. Social learning theory that admits promoting an inclusive learning environment in a public school system would be too difficult.  There are too many factors to consider for the effort.  So, segregation by learning “ability” is routine in order to track students to the learning outcomes.

Self-Esteem Focus

You’ll notice the following focuses on what you do and your value to the culture.  This makes you a “human doing” rather than a “human being.”  That is your value is in direct proportion to how you fit into the cultural narrative.  Projecting a positive image and providing value to the culture create the slippery slope toward entitlement oriented and narcissistic behaviors.  This is why many say these tactics feed the Ego.

      • What you believe your value is as a person based on the social standards
      • The positive self-image you are able to project
      • Your employment status and what value to return
      • The value of your purpose in life to the culture
      • Your social and economic status in the culture
      • The potential of your success in the culture
      • Your strengths and your weaknesses as seen by the culture
      • The value of your personal achievements according to the culture
      • Your independence and ability to be autonomous and self-supporting

The Long-Term Effects of Promoting Self-Esteem

If the above learning environment sounds unhealthy, it is.  This begins the slippery slope toward narcissistic and anti-social tendencies.  The culture reinforces these behaviors where performance and its pinnacle “excellence” is the ultimate goal.  It’s a strategy which glorifies the workaholic lifestyle achiever.  This methodology is addictive for the Ego.  It affects some personality types more than others.  For example, the compliant enneagram types one, two and six do well with structured memorization.  Type three, the achiever, although an assertive type thrives because they do measure their worth by achievement.  And, of course, the corporate work culture thrives on this type of training in the short run.

Social media reinforces the idea that only those who are far outside the norms are worthy.  So, we are trained to rely on making us feel special as means of e to ignore the reality of our own abilities and glorify our own self-work.  It’s a strategy which ignores the reality of our true skills and abilities.  The individual becomes so immersed in the cultural narrative that this unhealthy state becomes “normal” and comfortable.


Self-compassion is the gateway to the virtues of the spirit. It promotes healthy self-perception while providing a foundation for mental and physical wellness. This is because compassion is one of the basic elements of the heart that by its very nature grows and extends to others.  It’s the idea you hear whenever you travel by airplane.  The flight attendant tells you that if we need oxygen a mask will drop from the ceiling.  We are to put ours on first, before attempting to help others.  This is the main concept behind self-compassion.  We learn that to really be effective in helping others we must first be in a healthy place.  is the opposite of finding similarities with others.  It ignores the fact the most people are average.  But, with self-esteem being average or similar to most would be insulting and devaluing.

Self-Compassion Tactics

The essential basis for self-compassion is learning to be good to yourself while also being mindful of your effects on others and the environment.   If we do this, then we tend to think healthier thoughts this extends to everyone and everything else.  We open the door to the virtues of the spirit.  This is why many people say tactics like these feed the soul.

“Gratitude, Joyfulness, Happiness, Love, Thankfulness, Blissfulness, Appreciation, Mindfulness, and Serenity; these are the virtues of the spirit.  With these tools, we are able to conquer… not the world, but ourselves.  And, so then … the world does not need to be conquered.” — Guru Tua

The Focus of Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion targets Positive behavioral routines and habits instead of the magnification of the Ego. All of these require some effort to schedule the appropriate time.  But these simple practices have far-reaching positive health and welfare benefits.  Here are six basic examples:

1. Learn to Schedule what’s important

Setting alarms to monitor times to go to bed and times to wake up.  This practice can make you more rested and effective. And, it is an important aspect of self-care.  Otherwise, we can fall into the unhealthy practice of running our batteries too low.

2. Personal Appearance and Wellbeing

Make an effort to look good.  This means looking good on your own terms not what the cultural narrative projects.  The difference here could be very drastic.  What you feel makes you look “good” could be very different from the projections of the culture based on religious bias and consumerism.  So, one needs to “learn” their own style and look.  This requires time for the next self-compassion practice.  When you feel you look good then you feel better about life.  A positive outlook is important to your health and wellbeing.  Take time to find out who you are apart from the cultural narrative.

3. Solitude

Spend time alone.  Don’t wait until you feel resentful because you are always putting the needs of others first.  Schedule time for yourself to be alone. During this time you may be drawn to other self-compassion actions.  Be careful not to simply be distracted.  That means shutting off social media.  It’s okay to read or listen to music as these activities engage your mind while allowing your intuition to function. That is so long as what you read and listen doesn’t simply reinforce the cultural narrative.  Also, be careful of social media as this tends to be filled with both politics and religion.  These subjects tend to be divisive and lead to emotional turmoil.   You want your alone time to give you the opportunity to engage your intuition rather than reinforce groupthink manipulation programming that may be a part of your culture.

4. Embrace Nature

Spend time outdoors.  Learn the basic practices for moving and seated mindfulness meditation.  Learn the Japanese technique for using the mindfulness waking technique called “Forest Bathing.”  This is the cornerstone of their health and wellness program.  If you are so inclined dig deeper into other grounding techniques like the tree grounding process we recommend.

5. Foster Your Creativity

Find an outlet for your creativity.  If you do the above practices you’ll probably find yourself drawn to some creative outlet.  You can coax this out by creating and using a spiritual journal.  Here you’ll simply start writing ideas, goals, and thoughts.  You’ll find that we each have access to our own unique inner voice.  We recommend the use of a paper-based journal because your handwriting has a way of encouraging your inner creative voice.

6. Enhance Your Critical Thinking Ability

Interestingly enough one of the best ways to enhance our self-care is learning to think logically.  Enhancing your critical thinking skills is very important because it is deemphasized in many cultures.  In fact, many so-called modern cultures are overrun with political and religious groupthink manipulation programming.  So, much so that it has woven its way into the fabric of the culture.  The best way to protect yourself from the harmful effects is to constantly enhance your critical thinking capabilities.

Enneagram and Self-Compassion

The Enneagram Personality Profile enables us to learn about our personality.  We learn how each of the nine main personality types has its own unique way of relating to these nine main virtues of the spirit.   We all have access to these nine virtues regardless of our personality.

In the same way, we also have the ability to be drawn to the negative aspects of the Ego.  The opposite of gratitude is ungratefulness, thanklessness leading to greed and gluttony.  The negative of joyfulness is dissatisfied, unhappy, and joyless.  This leads to inertia or slothfulness.   Happiness becomes misery and sadness.  The opposite of love is hatred and envy (wrath).  Instead of thankfulness, we have a lack of appreciation.  The opposite of blissfulness we have numbness even calamity.  When we lose appreciation we become prideful.  Mindfulness is replaced by becoming self-absorbed and selfish. Serenity is replaced by anxiety and discomfort.

The above list of negative results can be seen in our culture.  This is why it is important to learn to question the cultural narrative.  We need to enhance our critical thinking skills and learn to observe our internal dialogue.  The Enneagram Personality Profile is a tool that helps us recognize the above unhealthy trends in our own lives so that we can adjust the trajectory accordingly.

Final Thoughts

This discussion should make you think about the differences between self-esteem and self-compassion. This should make you question the cultural narrative.  Our assessment is that promoting self-esteem is a gateway to unhealthy mental conditions that affect the individual and their culture.   Whereas, promoting self-compassion is a gateway to the virtues of the spirit.

So, although they sound similar the short-term and long-term effects are very different. Self-compassion is a behavioral modality which opens us to the virtues of the spirit.  While on the other hand, self-esteem is the pathway to unhealthy tendencies of narcissistic behavior. In addition, you may find some relief through proper self-care practices.

If this article resonates, there are more on our blog.  Also, you may be interested in learning about our blended learning process.  This is our curriculum which we use to teach several mind-expanding tools.  It also aligns the Hero’s Journey.  This is the term Joseph Campbell gave the pattern of consciousness development.  Our learning process is available in two forms.  You can take part in the virtual learning module or in our workshops.

While you are here please also check out our page FAQ for information about our mission.  And, please consider donating to support our mission of providing these ancient spiritual development tools.

Image by Unsplash.

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